As we talk about doubt, and as I share my personal story (okay, my most recent personal story) of struggling with holding onto faith, what I don't want to do is create this idea that if your faith is strong enough, it will just naturally hold on through whatever life throws at it and that somehow, it's up to your faith to save your faith. This would be essentially saying what we already said we don't want to say - that if you have a real faith, then even your real doubts don't matter because your faith just swallows them right up. It would be saying what we already said that we hate - that doubt is a lack of faith and a sign of personal weakness.
So let's just be real, and I'll go first: there have been numerous times in the past several months when I very easily could have just walked away from it all. Just like that. There were Sundays when it would have been easy for me to stay home, sleep in, pick up an extra run, whatever.
And a lot of persons would be quick to say, "Oh, well, uhm, you were just going to worship in a different way and fuel your soul." Because it's hard for persons to understand what it's like to be ready to walk away. It scares them to think that anyone, especially someone like me (who has used words for God for a very long time) or someone like the lead singer of a Christian band or someone like a pastor (you get the point), could walk away like that. I guess because if it happens to someone like ______, it can happen to you.
But no, it was nothing like that. I was not going to skip my church to feed my soul. I was going to skip church because my soul was dead. I was going to skip church because I didn't love God any more, and I didn't feel loved by God any more. I was not seeking some alternate spirituality or reconnection with the divine; I was just going to be done.
And the truth is, there were days when I didn't even want to hold on any more. When I didn't even want to try. When I knew how much effort I was putting into not losing this thing that I called faith because...well, I don't know why. Because I was scared of how God might react? Because I was scared of how I might react? Because I was scared that the rest of my life would fall apart if I let go of faith? Because I was scared that it wouldn't? (It's interesting how many of us think our faith is too big when generations of the faithful have come to discover their faith was too small.)
There were days when I was white knuckling my faith, holding on for dear life to something I wasn't even sure that I wanted any more, watching my hands take a firmer grip on a slipping rope, and...thinking to myself how much I didn't want to be living like this. Thinking how much I wanted to just let go.
There were days that I did.
There were days that I honestly was just done.
I say that because I think it's important to say that. I don't want to paint an unrealistic picture of doubt. I don't want to create this image where you can't fall into the pit of darkness because faith makes that somehow impossible. It's just not true. Even persons of great faith can fall into the pit of darkness, and more than that, I think they have to from time to time. I think you have to let go of the faith that you hold so that you can learn something more real about it, something that speaks to the very real doubts that you're wrestling with.
It's...letting go of everything you know, falling into the deep waters, finding something that floats and keeps you from drowning a horrible death, but that doesn't mean that you don't have to tread water for awhile until you discover some new place of solid ground.
Do you get the image? It isn't easy. It isn't pretty. It isn't all flowers and sunshine and confident assurances. And it doesn't have to be. God is not somehow more glorified by someone who has never tread water; I think His glory comes through all the more in those of us that have, in those of us who, like Jacob, have wrestled with our faith and found it all over again.
So no, don't think that doubt is easy. Don't think I'm trying to paint some pretty picture. Don't think that if you have a real faith, you'll never have a real doubt. Because it's just not true. Sometimes, your faith really does just explode, blow up entirely, and leave you at the mercy of some small piece of debris that is just in the right place at the right time to start rebuilding, even if you don't find that piece right away. Even if you don't find that piece for twenty years.
And if that's you right now, hear me: it's okay. It really is okay.